Let's reward corporations that embrace Free Software
The Free Software community is without a doubt today an important part of the overall IT business ecosystem. This community counts everyone from individuals to large corporations and is gathered around the common good that is Free Software, licensed under Free Software licenses such as BSD and GPL which also shields this common pool from outside exploitation. Corporations should already be realizing that they have to count with this community and its stance towards them. It is always good to cooperate with this community.
Sun Microsystems is one of the companies that can be with full respect called a part of this Free Software community and is increasingly one of its greatest contributors and supporters. It has sponsored an OpenOffice.org project from the beginning, freed their own operating system under a Free Software license, albeit not GPL compatible, but considering a GPL license for it in the future. And to top it all it is now releasing Java as Free Software under the GPL, a bold move that serves as a great example to other companies.
I believe the community should extend a warm thank you note to Sun Microsystems for this, but also to any company which shows clear support for Free Software. Doing this is a pragmatic thing to do. If we make a lot of positive buzz around every such positive move by any corporation, even more positive buzz than the amount of negativity that we created around the Novell-MS deal, we are sending a message of encouragement to any other corporation who is still vague in its support towards Free Software.
In other words, we need to loudly reward corporations for doing the right thing, so as to encourage others to do the same. Adobe needs to release flash, and Nvidia and ATI need to release their graphics card drivers as Free Software. Let's let them know that every such move towards the Free Software community will be rewarded by a great boost in reputation and cooperation that will end up making their own products better in eyes of millions of people around the world.
Even those who scarcely know what the whole Free Open Source Software thing is all about will know how to appreciate better quality of drivers for the new ATI cards, for example, quality which is boosted because the community was allowed to cooperate in making them better. Corporations need to get a clear signal that FOSS is not a dangerous thing to their business, that it is just the contrary, an added value to their own offerings.
What do ATI and Nvidia have to lose by releasing their drivers under the GPL? They sell hardware and that's their primary business. If freeing their drivers under a license that allows the community to *improve* them will result in drivers that bring the most out of their hardware then why not do it? It's a quality boost which translates to better customer satisfaction, and that always translates in better business.
What does Adobe have to lose from releasing flash when it is already letting it be downloaded for free? If they release the source code along the freedom to cooperate on it the community can only improve Adobe's technology, again resulting in a quality boost that can only help Adobe.
Every IT business in existence which has some software offerings today should ask themselves these same questions:
- What is there to lose by freeing our source?
- What is there to gain? (Reputation, better quality code, more innovation.)
It might just turn out that for most of the corporations which are still holding back the gain is higher than the loss. Let's tell them that. Let's repeat that. And let's build success stories out of corporations who have already made the step up towards cooperating with us!